by Bethany M. Dunbar
LYNDONVILLE, VT — The Northeast Kingdom will soon have a new slaughterhouse, butcher shop, retail local meat store, and meat processing plant in the industrial park in Lyndonville.
Scott Oeschger of Derby is the owner of Northeast Kingdom Processing. The general manager will be Denis Royer of Irasburg. Oeschger has bought Spring Hill Angus from Dan Maclure, and Bob Butterfield of Barton will be the general manager of the beef farm.
The new facility will be federally inspected and will be able to process 40 to 50 beef cattle a week plus 30 hogs and 30 sheep and goats.
“We’ve got a smokehouse going in,” added Royer.
The three men have been planning this project for two years and started getting calls from both farmers wanting to use the facility for their cattle and from restaurants and others interested in getting local meat soon after they started discussing building the plant. They hope to open sometime in March.
There has, for some time, been a shortgage of slaughterhouses in Vermont, and even though another one is getting ready to open elsewhere in the state, the three men are confident they will get plenty of business due to consumers’ interest in getting local meats and avoiding additives such as antibiotics.
Oeschger said he will employ five people to start, with the potential to grow to 10 or 12. He has emphasized in the design of the facility and in the hiring process that he wants a humane, clean facility.
The area where cattle will be killed is designed so that the animals will be pushed slowly along, around a corner and through a chute. The killing is done in a separate room out of view, sound, and smell of the other animals.
“There will not be a zapper in here,” said Royer, who has 20 years of experience in butchering, referring to an electric cattle prod.
“Everything is designed to slowly move them around,” said Butterfield. He wants to make sure the animals will not be upset or wound up in the process.
Butterfield has raised and shown cattle for decades and is well-known in the farm community as someone who truly cares about his beef cattle. He and his family have put a lot of time into quality genetics and showing, and last year had the grand champion bull at the Fryeburg Fair in Maine. Another of his animals, which was being leased, won grand champion dam.
Butterfield said farmers have been calling to ask if the new slaughterhouse will have enough capacity for animals besides the Spring Hill beef cattle, and he said it will. Spring Hill will be changing its name from Spring Hill Angus to Spring Hill Meats, and will be raising hogs as well. He expects to raise enough beef to supply NEK Processing with about four or five steers a week and 15 to 20 hogs a month.
“We’re looking to co-op with other farmers,” he said. The other farmers would be able to use Spring Hill genetics through a cooperative agreement.
“The idea would be quality and consistency,” Butterfield said. He said Spring Hill burger already goes to the Tamarack Grill at Q Burke Mountain and two local elementary schools, Glover and Orleans.
“We’re seeing if we can tie in with Jay Peak,” he said.
The retail shop will not open immediately, hopefully by Memorial Day. Once it does, customers will be able to get special cuts, bulk meats, or smoked meats. One item they would be able to sell that won’t be found in a grocery store is called a steamship round, a huge roast that includes the eye, bottom and top round and weighs about 87 pounds.
The facility has a 35×21 ft. freezer, and a separate walk-in cooler.
“We’ve probably got one of the largest freezers in the state,” said Royer.
Waste from meat processing will be sent to a rendering company for use in perfumes, cosmetics and crayons among other uses.
Oeschger said he’s excited to see the place coming together. The federal permit means a federal inspector will be on hand all the time. It also means the meat can be sold across state lines.
New slaughterhouse and meat processing plant will open soon
by Bethany M. Dunbar